Oh boy. Here goes. I'm doing a study in Malachi right now. One of the previous assignments was to make a list of 10 things you've "almost stopped hoping for." Almost stopped? Almost. The kind of hope that hurts when you admit you have it, but you don't want to give it up completely because you desire it with every fiber of your being. The kind of hope you just can't let go of, because it would diminish that dream and cause you to question why you ever hoped for it to begin with. The kind of hope that remains a flicker for those "just in case" possibilities. Ten things I almost stopped hoping for. Almost.
The assignment went on to suggest sharing that list with a few close Christian friends. No way, I thought. How embarrassing to let anyone in to the inner-most depths of my personal dreams.
Why embarrassing? Because someone else probably dreams better. Bigger. More relevant. More spiritual. More obtainable. More significant. Because someone else dreams different, and that makes me completely insecure.
So I'm blogging about it. For all. the. world. to. see. It's terrifying. And liberating. And out there. And making me a little bit nauseous.
I wrote this list just over two weeks ago. Three days later, items one (a different house) and two (being debt free) became a stark reality, when our house sold without us even listing it. Two items - boom, boom - fulfilled. Please tell me that excites you a little bit, and you can sense the incredible significance? Items one and two, marked off my list, within days of putting down in writing I had almost lost hope for them completely.
Number three, a reliable vehicle for Brent. Our entire relationship, he has driven some doozies. I just want him to have a car or a truck or a tank or a bus that will keep him safe, that won't nickel and dime us, and that he can haul our most precious cargo - our children - in, without wondering if he'll make it across town.
Four. A book deal. I have no idea how to go about pursuing one. I don't have a book written. Or started. But I want to write one, and I want someone else to want me to write one. I want to tell God's story in a way that He has shown us His existence and presence. I want to put it in black and white. I want people to look past my author picture and see His bigger picture of love and life for them.
Five. Being invited to speak. I speak at several events and gatherings, but because I volunteer, excitedly, and say, "I'll do it! I'll speak!" Some day, somewhere, someone will say, "You know who would deliver that message well? Val. Let's ask her."
Six. A sense of style. Lord help me. I don't know how to dress, accessorize, or shop. I text pictures of my outfits to friends and say, "Can I wear this?" and then they text back and say, "No. No, you cannot." and I try again. I just want to look as put together as the mannequins in the window, but that seems so much harder than it looks.
Seven. A trip to Ireland. One of the only countries I've ever wanted to visit enough to motivate me to get a passport. I still don't have a passport. But if I did, I would want the first stamp to be my trip to Ireland. Something about the green grass and the sheep and Riverdance. I don't know, I just want to go.
Eight. Taking a cruise. Wait, do I need a passport? The cruise I most want to take, and won't require a passport, is to Alaska. I just can't imagine. The beauty, the Bering Sea, the bears. Cruise me to Alaska.
Nine. Meeting Angie Smith and Mary Beth Chapman. Both married to men who I've always wanted to sing with (which I've totally lost all hope for; I just don't see it will ever happen.) and both mothers knowing the inexplicable pain of losing a daughter so loved and cherished, and finding a way to cling to God through the journey of life without her. I want to meet them. I want to hug them. I want to sit in Nashville, at the Pancake Pantry, and laugh and cry, and dribble my syrup in front of them. I want to take a picture of us, the three amigas, with our cute little scarves (that my friend texted approval of and said I could wear). I want to pray with, for, and beside them. I want to soak up their encouragement. They have helped me in ways they'll never realize, but their lives have been a completely palpable well of strength to draw from in my own journey.
Ten. A routine at home that always works. There won't be an always, because there is an exception to every rule. But I want a routine that actually stays a routine. I want to wake up in the morning by my alarm, and crack open my Bible before I crack open my Facebook feed. I want to have time to pray over and prepare for my day before getting breakfast ready. I want to shower and get dressed and have my hair dry before my 9:00 a.m. meetings. I want to play with my kids and read them stories. I want to be productive. With work. With laundry. With meals. With dusting. Lord, the dust... I want to have slotted time for snacks and Candy Land and baths. I want to not chase my tail and wonder, at the end of every day, why I'm so tired.
So I was excited when the first two were seemingly knocked off my list! Maybe there is hope for the rest! Right?
Confession time. We hit a bump in our road. Since I'm an independent contractor (self-employed), we can't count my income toward a mortgage until I've been at it for two years. I've been at it for two months. The homes we were considering, we don't qualify to purchase. We'll be renting for a while. Perhaps a long while. This was a sucker punch. A blow to the ego. A deflating feeling. How could we have just sold our home and now not be able to buy one we need? I was frustrated. I was doubtful. I shook my figurative fist to the heavens and questioned how He could let this happen. The plan was to spread out! Give ourselves some elbow room! Now we may have to rent for more than six months? We may have to downsize even further and for longer? And all for information I would have loved to have known before we accepted an offer on our home!
I stopped. Right in my tracks, I stopped. I am the one who has been verbalizing messages of encouragement. To keep trusting. To keep hoping. To know God's got this. Got all of us. I am the one who was boasting of being enveloped in the peace of God, and trusting His mighty plan. And then I am the one not walking that walk.
I had lost hope. Almost. All over again. I prayed. I repented. I'm trusting again. Hoping. The truth of the matter is: God is bigger than any amount of hope I lose. For that matter, He is bigger than any amount of hope I hold. There are no obstacles for Him. There are no bumps in the road. There is only the outcome. No matter what that may be, it's perfect. Whether in my time or His, it's perfect.
I may have almost stopped hoping for things, but I will not stop hoping in Him.